Sociability and the phonograph: a word cloud

Library of Ateneo de Madrid, early 20th century

After making the map ‘Collective phonographic sessions in Spain, 1890-1905’, I am left with more questions than I started with! (but that’s just as well: it’s what I expected). One such question, which I’ve been exploring in the last few days, is how early phonography was received into the spaces of sociability that proliferated in 19th-century Spain. These spaces (ateneos, sociedades, clubes, centros, círculos, liceos, casinos, and also cafés and theatres) allowed the emerging bourgeoisie first and the working classes later to socialize, learn, entertain themselves, exchange ideas and develop their class identity in a rapidly changing environment.

 The above word cloud is my attempt at visualizing the presence of phonographs in the different types of spaces of sociability. While some were more geared towards the cultural and educational (ateneos, liceos, some centros for the working classes), others privileged the recreational (café, casino, salón), and others combined both. With the phonograph being both a scientific development and an entertainment machine, it is clear that its appeal for members of these societies was complex and multifarious: making sense of it is my next challenge.

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